The popularity of the low histamine diet has led to speculation and misinformation. Here are five myths that you should know about!
#1 A low histamine diet will decrease the histamine in your body.
This may be true if diet is the source of excess histamine. Histamine intolerance is based on the theory that histamine is absorbed from food, especially if the diamine oxidase enzyme is not working well (DAO is an enzyme in the digestive system that breaks histamine down). However, if excess histamine is from a different source (e.g. seasonal allergies), a low histamine diet will not help. I have talked with many clients that assume they need to follow a low histamine diet because they have histamine-related symptoms. A low histamine diet should only be followed if it makes a significant difference.
#2 Histamine releasing foods.
It is widely accepted that certain foods (e.g. egg white, strawberries, etc.) cause a release of histamine when eaten. When I completed my master’s thesis on this topic in the early 1990’s, I could not find any research to support this concept. The theory was circulated and was eventually assumed to be fact. The “histamine releasing food” lists on the internet are based on foods that people have reported to be problematic – resulting in long lists and over restriction.
#3 Certain probiotics are better for histamine related symptoms.
This statement is likely true, but there is not enough information to know which probiotic product is the best. Some bacteria produce histidine decarboxylase (which creates histamine) and others produce diamine oxidase (which breaks histamine down). Therefore, some probiotic products are likely better than others for histamine-related symptoms, but more research is needed. Research is like a puzzle. If you have twenty pieces from a five-hundred-piece puzzle, it is very hard to know what the picture is. Similarly, if you only have a few studies, it is hard to answer research questions (e.g. what is the best probiotic product for histamine related symptoms?).
#4 The body will start making more histamine, if you take antihistamine medications.
It is fantastic that clients want to improve their symptoms through lifestyle changes (diet, stress reduction, etc.), but in some cases, lifestyle changes are not enough. Unfortunately, many clients are fearful of medications, often because of inaccurate statements on the internet. One of these rumors is that antihistamine medications cause the body to make more histamine. To my knowledge, this is a theory. I have not found any objective information to support it. Additionally, to me, it does not make sense. There are antihistamines that block H1 receptors (taken primarily for seasonal allergies, e.g. Claritin, Benadryl, etc.) and antihistamines that block H2 receptors (taken primarily for excess stomach acid, e.g. Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid, etc.). If taking antihistamines caused the body to make more histamine, you would expect that a common side effect of H1 receptors would be increased stomach acid and H2 receptors would cause allergy symptoms. However, these are not common side effects. Additionally, antihistamine medications would stop working after awhile if they increased histamine. Some people report this, but the great majority do not. Once again, it is best to avoid medications if you can improve your symptoms through lifestyle changes, but it is unfortunate when people avoid medications that could improve their quality of life, because of internet misinformation.
#5 The low histamine diet is an exact science.
A frequent question that I get is, “Which low histamine diet on the internet is the best one?”. Unfortunately, there isn’t an answer. The diet was based on a small amount of research in the 1970’s and 80’s, and there has been very little research since then. The low histamine diet is a guideline, not an exact science. My blog post, the problem with diet restriction lists discusses this topic further.